In Search of Identity: Burgenland-Croatian Perspective

  • Abstract:

    Burgenland Croats are members of a Croatian minority who have been living in Austria (and neighbouring countries) for more than 500 years. As opposed to some Croatian minorities in other countries, in case of which various assimilation processes are visible already in the second or third generation, Burgenland Croats managed to preserve their language, culture and tradition for several centuries. Our paper aims to give an insight into the strategies of identity construction in this Croatian community. The main issues we are dealing with are “collective” versus “individual” Burgenland Croatian identity, how this identity or these identities are constructed and what lies “beneath”. The corpus comprises materials collected when conducting a study on German-Croatian language contacts in Burgenland, notes and observations made in Burgenland. Our examples were found in literary works, media (transcripts of TV and radio programs and newspaper articles) and personal stories of some of our informants. In our analysis two perspectives were taken into consideration: the perspective of Burgenland Croats and outsiders’ perspective(s), be they Austrians, people from other (neighbouring) countries or Croats from their “old homeland”. In some cases informants discuss their experience and “how the others perceive them”, so in this context we could also talk about “embodied” perspectives or perspectives within perspectives. Our analysis has shown that for the community in question the identity and nationality are closely intertwined and that identity often bears, implicitly and explicitly, a strong political dimension.